I’m a natural laugher. It doesn’t take much to get me going—especially when I’m surrounded by kindred sprits. My date, on the other hand, is not. And it wasn’t until about halfway through the first act of Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music that he lightened up and realized that the show, first, was pretty darn funny, and second, had very little to do with country music.
Act one of this charmer is definitely for the boys, complete with car talk, beer swiggin’, and mild good ol’ boy humor. The Texas twang from Jim, played by David Bridgewater, and Roy, played by Matthew Mitchell, hangs in the air as this pair of hicks discusses life, love, and ambition – or lack thereof in young Roy’s case. Jim owns the bar, which he’ll tell you, used to be a bad-ass biker bar before he fell hard for Eva Jean, a transplant from the North who not only changed the name of his beloved bar, but also, much to Jim’s dismay, had the dirt parking lot paved with…gasp! Asphalt.
We don’t formally meet Eva Jean until act two, when we also are introduced to her niece Catherine from the North, a novice, or nun-in-training, who has been kicked out of the convent. Upon meeting the angelic Catherine, the dim-witted and kind-hearted Roy is absolutely convinced that he has found true love. The elder Jim spends the rest of the play talking Roy out of love in general, and in particular steering him clear of even an attempt at romance with Catherine.
For comedic effect, factor in a psychological Tourette-like syndrome that has one of the characters spouting off inappropriate phrases at very funny times and Eva Jean’s spoiled son Jason (also visiting from the North, whom Jim has aptly renamed Jay Bob in true Texas style) and the result is a hilarious two-act play that pokes good clean fun at life, love, marriage, the South, the North, religion, and intellectualism.
While I enjoyed Bridgewater in Scorched Earth at Willow Lawn a few months ago, the role of Jim seemed to be written just for him. Were those real tattoos? I kept wondering. And after seeing Nice People Dancing, I had to kick myself for missing Mitchell in Henley Street Theatre Company’s The Liar. He shone as Roy, the philosophical dullard who digs ditches for a living.
What more could you want? Well, I was also very impressed with the work of Terrie Powers and Hilary Koss, the creative masterminds behind the set design and sound for the play. The only things I didn’t particularly care for were the title and the interminable drive to Hanover Tavern. Although every production I’ve seen there has been well worth the trek. Next time I head that way though, I will take the advice of friends we saw at Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music last Friday, and enjoy dinner. They were still smiling when they told us the crab cakes were awesome. In the meantime, I recommend this one for date-night for just about anyone, and for parents with kids, I would say 14 and up, mostly due to language and mild sexuality themes. (Although I prefer this sort of innocuous presentation to a movie anytime!)
Reviewed by Karen Schwartzkopf.
Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music runs now through August 26 at Hanover Tavern.
See RFM’s Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music event listing.
Full Price: $38 | Seniors (60+): $35 |
Ages 18 and under: $19